May 18, 2011


Reading through the blogs to which I subscribe, I have started to wonder whether or not I am a novelist. Perhaps I'm a novella-ist. Is that a word?

I like short stories, usually between 10 and 15 thousand words. I do weekly flash fiction (1-5K). My fanfiction multichaps, like my two manuscripts, are nearer 50 thousand than 100 thousand words. Are these novels? Each is a complete story told without frills or preamble, backstories given only as necessary.

I mention in my comment on Sophie Li's blog that I don't usually enter a story with a word count in mind. Additionally, I don't tend toward detailed outlines. Occasionally I've taken a short story or flash fiction idea and gone further with the characters, adding other characters and deepening the conflict beyond what might have been in the original piece.

Is this the right way to write? I don't know. Has it worked for me? I think so. My first novel is off to the printers (so I hear). The second has had a fair reception from pre-readers. I feel that they tell a story.

However, I know I need more form in my style. I know, in future, I would like to have a more compelte idea before I begin writing. At the same time, I fear becoming staid and losing the fun and flexibility that com from discovering with my characters, through my characters.

I've learned enough to know that pushing a character to do something contrary to their personality, for the sake of plot and structure, can ruin a story. However, even though what I plan might not be out of character, often during an exchange between characters, an even more natural response results.

Geek Moment: Q from Star Trek.
Picard and Janeway had personalities that interacted well with Q. He could play with them, push their buttons, and move them as he liked. Each of Next Generation and Voyager had several Q episodes. Sisko, on the other hand, responded very differently. Not out of character, though. Sisko could be diplomatic, or romantic, or philosophical, but Q did not bring out these qualities. He brouth out stubborness and hostility.

Just so, I would like, if I brought two characters together and find they antagonize each other rather than complimenting or cooperating, to have a structure loose enough to accomodate the result, that I could explore the relationship at the same time as the story I have already set the characters moving along.

Do you have a word count in mind when you start? Do you aim for 100K and feel inadequate when you fall short? Do you tend to stretch stories or shorten them?


  1. *waves & hugs* Thanks for the mention Kim!

    For me word count is much more of a concern writing NF verses Fiction. I think fiction stories often comes to me and I feel like I'm just a vessel to let the story be told. Regardless of word count. Where as NF the word count gives me a goal to know what the industry standard is and it helps me stay focus to pick & choose what goes in the memoir. Ya know?

    I think fiction for me is more of an organic process where fiction is more of a conscious effort if that makes any sense at all.

    You must be SOO excited about your book! Congrats again!

  2. I don't judge a book by its word count ;) I think the story will take as many (or few) words as it needs to be told, and that's that. And honey, if you aren't a novelist with your word count, I know quite a few authors at certain e-publishers who wouldn't be either.

  3. I agree with the above. Let the story set the length.